Have you ever felt bombarded by shame? Recently, I found myself submerged in it. Yet at the time, I wasn’t aware that shame was fueling the emotional struggle within. I could identify the fruits: anxiety, isolation, reservation, and resentment, but the root didn’t have a name. So, I carried on. But work meetings were challenging. I couldn’t be fully present. It was hard for me to contribute. My head wouldn’t allow it. When I tried to offer an opinion or idea, I’d be punished by a symphony of inner judgment: “Why did you say that Gabrielle?” “Why are you so…” “You shouldn’t be…” I’d immediately wish I could erase any evidence of self I had just displayed to others. Punishing myself for demonstrating a mind, will, and emotions. The basics of humanity.
These kinds of thoughts went unchecked in my mind for a few more days and affected my life at home, too. I couldn’t communicate need to the people around me without feeling shameful. I didn’t like how I felt about myself - I felt inherently wrong because I was far from ideal - and shame told me I wouldn’t be accepted. Who would want to be around me? I found myself acting this out in my interactions, assuming disapproval and rejection, and projecting my own inner discontent onto others.
This cycle continued until one night I read the ONE Heart devotional by Rosalind Hervey titled “Respond vs React”. In it, she mentioned a discipline that helps the brain stay relational with God and with others: Appreciation. Encouraged by the reminder, I closed the email.
But soon it happened, again. Another intrusive shame thought. Something to the tune of “Why are you so…?” But this time, as I laid on my bed, I finally just ‘caught’ it. “No!”, I said out loud. “I will not think shaming thoughts! I will not entertain you!”. Then I paused and began to think about the things I appreciate about myself. I’ve never done that before. I’ve regularly paused to appreciate Jesus, nature, my family, friends, and even my material possessions, but I’ve never thought to stop and appreciate myself. To intentionally take notice of and enjoy how God created me. So, suspending all other thoughts, I reflected in silence and expressed gratitude for me. It felt good. My whole body felt thankful. I felt loved. At that moment, I’d sincerely forgotten the shaming thought that crossed my mind to disrupt my joy and peace in the first place.
I’m owning up to the fact that so often I forget to do the simple thing we’ve been commanded: “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Many times I let these disruptive thoughts carry on for far too long, wreaking havoc on my mind and emotions. I’m grateful God exposed the shame root of these recent thoughts. I’m even more grateful that He prompted me to respond with appreciation of the unique ways I’ve been created.
I asked Jesus, “How does this truth change things for me moving forward?” Immediately, a thought came to me: “I can now live responsive to Him.” Hearing this from God felt freeing and life-giving. Reacting to shame always felt belittling, but responding to Him is empowering and freeing. I can live in celebration instead of condemnation.
So can you! I encourage you to take a moment and ask the Lord which thoughts of shame have been on replay in your head. Let Him expose the lies of shame for what they are. Then ask Jesus what He appreciates about you so you can begin the practice of appreciation in partnership with Him.